The state Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division announced Friday on Facebook that a whale survey plane with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission located Monday a North Atlantic right whale, No. 2791, with a two-week-old calf swimming in waters around 6 miles east of Amelia Island, Fla.
According to the post, “Whale researchers from the Georgia DNR and Sea to Shore Alliance were nearby and approached in a small boat to collect high-definition images and video for photo-identification and health assessment purposes. Researchers turned off the boat’s engines and floated quietly as the whales swam past, cannonball jellyfish swirling in their wake.
“Please remember that only federally permitted researchers are allowed within 500 yards of the endangered species. All other boats must remain outside that limit.”
It’s believed the calf was born in the area sometime between Dec. 23 and 28.
The North Atlantic right whale catalog lists whale No. 2791 as first sighted Aug. 10, 1997, by the New England Aquarium in the Bay of Fundy. She appeared in that area regularly through 2005, and first seen in the southern calving area Jan. 2, 2006. She stayed off Florida and Georgia through March, and was seen again in the Bay of Fundy in August 2006. Her next trip south occurred three years later in 2009, where she was spotted in January and stuck around until early April, until researchers saw her back in the Bay of Fundy in August.
No. 2791 didn’t return south again until this latest sighting, marking her third calving. Like other female adult right whales, the time between her calving periods lengthened, from three years to 10 years, which scientists have noted is a problematic development in maintaining and rebuilding the North Atlantic right whale population.